The effects of biting and pulling on the forces generated during feeding in the Komodo dragon (varanus komodoensis)

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Abstract

In addition to biting, it has been speculated that the forces resulting from pulling on food items may also contribute to feeding success in carnivorous vertebrates. We present an in vivo analysis of both bite and pulling forces in Varanus komodoensis, the Komodo dragon, to determine how they contribute to feeding behavior. Observations of cranial modeling and behavior suggest that V. komodoensis feeds using bite force supplemented by pulling in the caudal/ventrocaudal direction. We tested these observations using force gauges/transducers to measure biting and pulling forces. Maximum bite force correlates with both body mass and total body length, likely due to increased muscle mass. Individuals showed consistent behaviors when biting, including the typical medial-caudal head rotation. Pull force correlates best with total body length, longer limbs and larger postcranial motions. None of these forces correlated well with head dimensions. When pulling, V. komodoensis use neck and limb movements that are associated with increased caudal and ventral oriented force. Measured bite force in Varanus komodoensis is similar to several previous estimations based on 3D models, but is low for its body mass relative to other vertebrates. Pull force, especially in the ventrocaudal direction, would allow individuals to hunt and deflesh with high success without the need of strong jaw adductors. In future studies, pull forces need to be considered for a complete understanding of vertebrate carnivore feeding dynamics.

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D’Amore, D. C., Moreno, K., McHenry, C. R., & Wroe, S. (2011). The effects of biting and pulling on the forces generated during feeding in the Komodo dragon (varanus komodoensis). PLoS ONE, 6(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0026226

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